Kosovo Call for New Coalition to Build Trust in Media

Some of the participants at the Building Trust in Media meeting Pristina (EJN)

Some of the participants at the Building Trust in Media meeting Pristina (EJN)

Ethical Journalism Network meeting: Building Trust Through Ethical Management

A meeting of media leaders held in Pristina on October 21st 2016 has called for a new media coalition across all platforms of journalism to build trust in media and to defend press freedom.

At the meeting Agron Bajrami the editor in chief of Kosovo’s leading multi-media company Koha Ditore said the ethical media audits proposed by the Ethical Journalism Network for media companies provided an excellent opportunity to establish a much-needed coalition for media ethics in Kosovo.

“I think we need to start a new discussion within the media community,” he said. “We have started something and we need a coalition of all groups – including the Press Council, the Independent Media Commission and the media – to follow it up.”

Bajrami and other editors said specific work was needed to monitor and regulate news portals. “Can we sit and work out how to create and develop a coalition to defend journalism and ethics?” he said.

In Kosovo the mood is more optimistic among media than in Serbia and the meeting agreed to work together around the ethical guidelines and audits proposals to try to establish a new model of co-operation within media. “A coalition to address the media and information crisis is needed,” said Bajrami. “Above all, to protect our profession.”

The Pristina meeting was organised in co-operation with leading media and Kosovo and the Press Council and was held to discuss the circulation of the media audit guidelines prepared by the EJN which are aimed at strengthening transparency and good governance inside media enterprises.

The meeting heard from the background to the programme from Aidan White, Director of the Ethical Journalism Network, and a presentation on the development of ethical audits in practice was made by Bernt Olufsen, an editor and publisher who pioneered the use of internal reporting at one of Norway’s major newspapers, the best-selling tabloid VG.

The EJN had held preparatory and individual meetings with a number of editors and executives from leading media including Koha Ditore, Zeri, Kosovo 2.0, Insider, and RTK. The seminar was aimed at further elaborating on the importance of good governance and transparency in the process of supporting sustainable and trusted brands for journalism.

The meeting included representatives of media associations – the Kosovo Journalists Association and the Electronic Media Association – as well as media support groups including the OSCE and the regulatory bodies the Independent Media Commission and Press Council.

Bernt Olufsen of the EJN presents a model of ethical auditing for media with Koha Ditore Editor Agron Bjrami, Left, and Bsea Lucic, Editor of Kosovo 2.0.

Bernt Olufsen of the EJN presents a model of ethical auditing for media with Koha Ditore Editor Agron Bjrami, Left, and Bsea Lucic, Editor of Kosovo 2.0.

Presentations on the current situation in Kosovo and the challenges of introducing new methods for improving trust and internal transparency were made by Agron Bajrami, Besa Luci, editor in chief at Kosovo 2.0; and Parim Olluri, executive director of Insajderi (Insider), a new online investigative journalism portal.

It was noted that media in Kosovo are already able to enjoy more independence and editorial freedom than media in other parts of the Western Balkans and that it might be possible for Kosovo media to play a role in creating models for good governance that could be used elsewhere.

In the discussion that follow a number of practical recommendations were put forward including the proposal to create a Media Coalition in Kosovo.

It was agreed that such an initiative should aim to promote the highest standards through debate and discussion within media that already have a commitment to ethical journalism and media management. It should be an initiative also supported by regulators, both voluntary (Press Council of Kosovo) and that which is covered by law (the Independent Media Commission).

Among the issues noted for action which such a coalition could consider were:

  1. Creating a unified voice within the media community to combat impunity regarding threats to media and individuals journalists;
  2. Opening up a dialogue on the need to support authors’ rights and strengthen copyright protection for journalists and media (particularly in the face of the growth of online sources that do not respect such protections);
  3. Establishing support for wider media literacy going beyond existing school-based programmes that will improve institutional understanding and citizens’ awareness of the need for responsible communications in the public sphere;
  4. Supporting initiatives such as that developed by the EJN to promote internal transparency and reporting as well as looking at ways to develop discussion on the future of self-regulation of journalism in the face of media convergence and the dissemination of journalism on different platforms.
  5. In particular, to examine how regulation of journalism can be strengthened and made more efficient on voluntary principles by creating an approach that recognises the value of all journalism being subject to a uniform content monitoring and complaint-handling system.
  6. In this regard, the Media Coalition could also consider
  • the value of establishing a national ombudsman for journalism
  • reviewing existing codes of conduct to see whether they can be updated and unified and
  • whether or not it is feasible to introduce a “trusted media” label for those media which subscribe to minimum standards of respect for ethics, good governance and self-regulation.

It was also noted that the Press Council of Kosovo will distribute to all of its member organisations the EJN media guidelines for auditing and for transparency and further discussions on these issues will be recommended to promote a better understanding within Kosovo of the values of transparency and good ethical governance as a way of building public trust in journalism and media.